Can't sleep? You need to know about HomePod's ambient sounds feature

HomePod ambient sounds
(Image credit: Future)

 Apple's HomePod is a masterpiece of audio engineering and my absolute favorite smart speaker. I love its design, AirPlay, HandOff, and incredible audio performance. 

However, did you know aside from audio like music and podcasts, you can also use your HomePod to fill a space with ambient background noise from the ocean, a forest, or even just pure white noise?

Apple first added Ambient Sounds to the HomePod a few years ago. Essentially, your HomePod can accept commands to play a total of seven different ambient sounds. It's a feature that very few people know about despite it having existed for years. With the HomePod 2, Apple remastered those soundscapes, making them sound better than ever.

Break the silence

Black HomePod 2 alongside White HomePod 2

(Image credit: Future / Stephen Warwick)

Not everyone wants to listen to music or podcasts all the time – I know I certainly don’t. 'Sitting or working silence, however, can feel really strange. Of course, there are ambient sounds galore across the web, but being able to simply ask Siri for the sounds of the forest on my HomePod is delightfully convenient, and it sounds fantastic! 

Of course, ambient sounds can also be tremendously helpful when you’re trying to get to sleep. What’s more, ambient background noise can sometimes help to mask unwanted background and environmental noise when you’re trying to drift off.

A 2021 study found that “white noise significantly improved sleep based on subjective and objective measurements in subjects complaining of difficulty sleeping due to high levels of environmental noise.” A similar 2017 study revealed white noise was particularly effective in reducing sleep onset latency (how long it takes you to fall asleep). 

 To be honest, whether white noise or any other background sound helps with sleep is likely a very subjective matter, but if you are someone who struggles to sleep, then this HomePod feature could certainly be worth your time.

As noted, there’s a white noise option (which I personally find to be a bit jarring), but also a few other notable choices.

Wake by the ocean

Apple HomePod 2 in black

(Image credit: Future / Stephen Warwick)

My two favorites are the ocean sounds and the fireplace, the former is very relaxing, and the latter is a wonderfully cozy crackling for anyone who misses the warmth of an open fire.

Forest sounds and night sounds are also very well put together and interesting, however, I don’t think these ones would personally help put me to sleep (although they might help David Attenborough). A dark horse for sleep aid is the rain sounds, although living in Scotland I don’t have much use for this given it’s nearly always raining anyway.

The only awkward one I found is the stream sound. Others might disagree, but personally, I think it just sounds like someone using the toilet.

 To use these sounds, you simply have to say the magic words - “Hey Siri” - and then “play”: 

  • "Hey Siri — play white noise."
  • "Hey Siri — play ocean sounds."
  • "Hey Siri — play fireplace."
  • "Hey Siri — play night sounds."
  • "Hey Siri — play forest sounds."
  • "Hey Siri — play stream sounds."
  • "Hey Siri — play rain sounds."

Once you’ve started off an ambient sound, you can then ask Siri to start a sleep timer that will stop the sound from playing after an allotted period. That can be several hours if you want the sound to run all night, or a few minutes if you just want the sound to help you drift off. 

These work on all models of HomePod, and we have a full guide on how to play ambient sleep sounds on your HomePod or HomePod mini. 

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9